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What is Cloud Computing?

Susan Gauch, professor and chair of the computer science, computer engineering department, replies:

Cloud computing refers to computer applications and data that are run and stored on someone else’s servers. Using local devices (laptops, MP3 players, smart phones), cloud computing users connect to their applications and data over the Internet. Some examples of cloud computing services are Windows Live, Google Docs, and iCloud, Apple’s newly announced service.

With cloud computing, each person is relieved of the burden of installing and maintaining the applications on their local device or making backups of their important files. The applications “in the cloud” take care of that for you! As the number of computer devices in the average home climbs, cloud computing could be an alternative to every family having a “system administrator” at home or a tech service on speed dial.

In the near future, cloud services could also interact, allowing your social network site to automatically “friend” everyone in your address book, or your calendar application to show you as “busy” whenever you book a vacation.

No technological advance is without its downside, however, and there are serious issues regarding privacy and security that computer scientists and policy makers need to address. If all of your data is in the cloud and the company goes under, what happens to that data?

In addition, letting an outside organization maintain your data means giving that organization potential access to personal information, and data stored on the Internet is vulnerable to criminal activity.

Cloud computing technology is likely to evolve over time to meet the needs of users and minimize risk, but with all the benefits it has to offer, the cloud is definitely here to stay.

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